Coming Soon Superfast Internet

by The Times 100 on Tuesday 22nd April, 2008

Coming Soon – Superfast Internet

The scientists at Cern, (the particle physics centre based near Geneva), have now built a lightning-fast replacement which could soon make the Internet obsolete. The latest development, the grid, will operate at speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection. David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could revolutionise society. He said: With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine. (The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008)

This summer will see the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data generated by the LHC. Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said so much processing power was needed that the only answer was a new network (a parallel Internet) powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries. Ian Bird, the project leader for Cerns high-speed computing project said the grid technology could make the Internet so fast that people would store information on the Internet, rather than on a desktop computer. This means it could be accessed from anywhere. (The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008)

The grid is being made available to dozens of academic researchers, including astronomers and molecular biologists. It has already been used to help design new drugs against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills one million people worldwide each year. Researchers used the grid to analyse 140 million chemical compounds a task that would have taken a standard Internet-linked PC 420 years! Although the grid itself is unlikely to be available to domestic Internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. (The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1989. Four years before that, in 1985, the first mobile phone call was made – on the Vodafone network. See the Times 100 case study on Vodafone, which uses business principles to support ethical communication. It is now one of the largest phone companies in the world, with more than 15 million users in the UK alone. The mobile telecommunications market in which it works is high-tech and there will no doubt be benefits for its users from the development of the grid.

Sources:

The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008 (print edition)

The Times Online – Coming soon: superfast internet, 6 April 2008

European Organization for Nuclear Research – The last pieces of the puzzle

The Times 100 Edition 12 Case Studies – Vodafone, Using business principles to support ethical communication

Potential Study Questions:

  • How might the development of new technology, such as the grid, be a threat to some businesses?
  • Give two examples of ethical policies a firm could have.
  • Explain why communication between people and departments is harder in big business.

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